Ellen Lucy Peltier

The Early Years

During the fall of 1888 as Albert Peltier harvested his crops he probably had a lot on his mind.  His wife Celestine (Derosier) not only had their 2 young children 3 year old Alice and 18 month old Albert Noah to tend to, but she was also due to give birth to their next child, Ellen Lucy, my grandmother.  Although Albert had laid the fields to rest for the season, his family was growing. 

Ellen was born on November 30, 1888 at home on the family farm in White Bear Township near Lake Vadnais.1  Albert was 28 years old and Celestine had just celebrated her 20th birthday earlier that same month.  During 1888, the number one cause of death in Minnesota was tuberculosis, and due to the high levels of infant mortality the average life expectancy was only 45 years old.2  Ellen would not become one of these statistics, she would thrive.

In 1942 Ellen filed for a delayed birth certificate.3  Ellen’s delayed birth certificate states that no record (birth certificate) was filed due to the “negligence of the midwife.”  The truth is that most Minnesota birth records for 1888 did not survive the test of time.  The delayed birth certificate shows Ellen’s birth date, the time she was born, where she was born and her parents’ names and occupations, as well as other details.  However, it doesn’t contain the name of the attending doctor or midwife.  Her mother Celestine was present to certify the information.

Ellen Lucy Peltier 1942 Minnesota delayed birth certificate – page 1
Ellen Lucy Peltier 1942 Minnesota delayed birth certificate – page 2

Ellen was baptized by Reverend Claude Robert at St. John’s Catholic Church in Little Canada.

St. John’s Church (1881-1956)
Hellene [Ellen] Peltier, probably 1889
Do you see the woman crouched behind the chair?  She must be holding Ellen up.
Circa 1891 – left to right: Albert Noah, Vina, Ellen and Alice

Ellen grew up on the family farm homesteaded by her grandparents: Charles and Domitille (Garceau) Peltier.  The 1895 Minnesota census shows Ellen’s grandfather Charles Peltier and her uncle Leon Peltier as well as Albert, Celestine and the first 6 of their children: Ellis [Alice], Albert, Ellen, Vina, Edmund and Cleveland.4

1895 Minnesota census showing the extended Peltier family
(Charles and Leon resided in the original home that Charles built and Albert and his family in the subsequent home that was built on the property)

It is hard to have a perspective of the world around the time Ellen was born.  In 1895 White Bear Township had 990 people and the entire state of Minnesota had about 45,000 people.5  In comparison, White Bear Township now has a population of about 11,000 people in an area about a quarter of what it was initially when the populations of Vadnais Heights, White Bear Lake, Gem Lake and North Oaks would have been included. Presently the entire state population is about 5.72 million and if you combined the current day populations of White Bear Lake and Stillwater, you would have the population of the entire state in 1895.6 

Events that happened in 1888, the year Ellen was born, include: Nikola Tesla delivering a speech about the use of alternating currents and the transmission of power over long distances, Jack the Ripper terrorizing the population of London, and Thomas Edison filing a patent for the Optical Phonograph (the first movie projector).7  For Ellen, these people were not “ancient history;” they would have been a part of the marvels of her time. (or they would have been the innovators of her time)

By 1896 Ellen was going to the 6A school, as it was called.  The one-room red brick school was built for $3,500 and was finished in November 1892.  Ellen’s teacher was George S. Belland who taught all eight grades until 1900, receiving a salary of $45 per month for his labors.  Ellen, Alice, Albert Noah and 48 other students are all documented as going to 6A during the 1896-97 school year.  Mr. Belland must have had a lot of patience with his 51 students, divided among eight different grades, all in one classroom.8  My guess is that he ruled with a strong hand.

6A School, Centerville Road
Mr. George S. Belland

The school was eventually partitioned into two rooms and stood for almost 60 years.  It was razed to make way for the present Vadnais Heights School on Centerville Road.9

The 1900 U. S. census shows the 5 oldest children all “at school,” as well as another addition to the family, Norma who was born in 1898.  Ellen (age 11, not 10 as shown on the census record) now had 3 sisters and 3 brothers.  Her grandfather Charles and her uncle Leon still resided on the property.10

1900 U. S. census record showing Albert and Lena Pelkie [Albert and Celestine Peltier] family
(Charles and Leon are listed right below the highlighted area)

In 1901, at about 12 years old, Ellen received her First Communion from Father Joseph Goiffon and she was confirmed on February 1, 1905 when she was 16 years old.11

Helene Peltier “Precieux Souvenir Pour Le Coeur Fidele” (Precious Memory for the Faithful Heart) commemorating her First Communion and Confirmation

Ellen’s grandfather, Charles Peltier, died June 28, 1904 at 78 years old.12  The Peltier family must have been devastated.    He had built and resided on the farm for over 50 years.

The 1905 Minnesota census is the last one to show Ellen still living with her parents.13  She has another sister, Frances, who was born December 12, 1902  and there is a sister, Eveline, not listed because she only lived for 12 days.  Eveline was born on February 12, 1901 and died on February 24, 1901.14

1905 Minnesota Census showing Albert, Celestine and the surviving 8 children

I don’t know if Ellen ever finished school.  I say this because of her being just 16 years old and listed as a farm laborer on the 1905 census.  It might have been that she did graduate, but it was from the 8th grade, the highest level offered at 6A.

Ellen Peltier, circa 1905
(I think this is such a lovely picture of Ellen.  I have no idea what the occasion would have been.)

Ellen worked for Charles W. Price of White Bear Lake for some period of time between 1905 and 1910.  Mr. Price owned the Western Electric Company in White Bear and he and his family resided on Clark Avenue in White Bear Lake.15  This would have been about the same time that her future husband Adlore Vadnais was working in White Bear Lake at the Inter-State lumberyard and for contractor C. E. Davis.  I had wondered how they met when I wrote about Adlore, but it now seems likely that with Ellen working in White Bear within blocks of where Adlore lived and worked that they somehow were introduced to one another and their relationship began.  I can only guess that Adlore was smitten with Ellen the moment he met her.

Ellen’s employer, Charles W. Price
(The writing on the back of this postcard is how I found out that Ellen worked for this man shortly before she was married.)


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Footnotes for Ellen Lucy Peltier – The Early Years

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